How to Cook a Hot Dog you can be Proud Of

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the warm (hot) weather has finally arrived and tomorrow is the first day of Summer. It’s officially barbecue season, and with that means chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs and more on the grill. Today I am going to focus on one of the most important pieces of the BBQ get together and that is the Frankfurter, also know as, the hot dog. Usually people just throw these on the grill and hope for the best but these guys need a little more TLC.

As there are different kinds of people, there are different kinds of hot dogs. We have all come across them throughout our lives.

The Old Burnout

This guy has seen a little too much action in his day. Cooked until wrinkly and dried out. You get a nice crispy outside, that some people like, but the inside is dried out and bland. This is due to cooking all the juices out of the hot dog from just throwing them on the grill, on high heat and without any care. The problem with high heat is it cooks the outside before the in.

The Undercooked Afterthought

This is the hot dog that doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s the guy that’s thrown onto the grill last-minute after all the care went to the hamburgers and chicken. “Hey the hot dog is already pre-cooked right?” You might say. Leaving food myths aside (Yes it’s not super safe to eat hot dogs undercooked or cold from the fridge). Your spiral ham is also cooked and you don’t just sit down to a cold one for your families Christmas dinner. Or do you? Give your dog some TLC.


This hot dog has been through war. Its battle scars worn proudly but suffers from PTSD. You have all had this dog. Sliced up every which way to vent. Yes, it renders a nicer looking hot dog, but what about the taste? We want to keep those juices in. Would you slice up your turkey roast to vent all those beautiful juices.

Tasteless and Boring

Before you grill you have to buy the hot dog and guess what? All hot dogs are not born equal. Some are doomed from the start. Don’t buy that questionable meat hot dog. Go for something all beef and with their natural casing, like Nathan’s “Original Coney Island Natural Casing Beef Frankfurters”. I can’t recommend these hot dogs enough. The skin gives the hot dog a nice snap and leaves all the juices in. They also have an amazing garlic flavor that sings over the bun and all the condiments you can throw on it.

So How Do I Make a Hot Dog I can be Proud of?

Ok so we learned about the main hot dog offenders and yes you will see these all mix and matched but the key here is to find a balance with your hot dog. Now we all want that well done crispy outside, but we also want the inside to be bursting with juices and flavor.

If you were to just throw a hot on high heat and wait for it to cook to the perfect doneness, it’s mission impossible for a couple of reasons. First of all, the hot dogs are going to cook on the outside before the juices and fat even had time to render on the inside. This will leave you with a perfectly crispy hotdog on the outside but the inside will be bland and tasteless.

Another thing you could do is cook the hot dogs on low indirect heat. What will happen is the hot dog will cook to the optimal temperature inside, the fat will render and the juices will come out but it won’t have that snap or crispy outside we all love. Now some people like their hot dogs this way, fine grab your (in my opinion) undercooked hot dog and get out of here.

So how do I get the balance and best of both worlds. If you haven’t guessed it already, here it is: You need to cook it on indirect heat, then transfer it over to direct heat when the hot dog is finished on the inside: crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.


When you don’t knife a hot dog something interesting happens. Your hot dog will build up with steam until it eventually bursts open. I use this as a gauge for when the hot dog is finished on the inside and ready to move to direct heat. Don’t worry you won’t have the hot dog over direct heat long enough to drain the hot dog of all the juices.

It’s important when cooking the hot dog over indirect heat to listen and watch for when the hot dogs pops, this is the time to transfer them over to the hot burners.

Hot to Cook a Hot Dog

Recommended Ingredients

Nathan’s Natural Casing Beef Frankfurters

Martin Hot Dog Rolls

Yellow Mustard


  1. Do yourself a favor, do not cut your dog! Leave it be, all you need to do is pat your hot dog dry before putting it on the grill.
  2. Place your hot dog on indirect heat for about 20 minutes at about 350º to 400ºF. Give your hot dog plenty of time for those juices to come out on the inside but at the same time you don’t want your hot dog to pop yet. We want those juices to stay in there.
  3. After about 20 minutes or when the hot dog pops, transfer it directly over high heat on the burner. This is a good time to place your hot dog buns on the grill face down on medium/high heat. They will finish about the same time your hot dog is done.
  4. Cook the hot dog about 3 minutes each side until you get a nice crispy skin.
  5. Place hot dog into bun with your favorite condiments. I prefer just mustard so I can still taste the hot dog.
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